Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Chapter 3-4

For the preceding chapters, click here for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment CH.1CH.2 Pt.1CH.2-3CH.3-1CH.3-2, CH.3-3!!

“It sounds like you did everything you could to try to save her,” Ecks said.

Jacoby scoffs lightly. “Did I?” he says and then tosses back another swig of whiskey.

Just as Ecks expected, Jacoby isn’t accepting any condolences. His guilt is too deep. Rather than press the matter, Ecks continues to learn more about the chateau and the Lady in White. “You were knocked out. Any idea how long?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that when I came to, the sun had already set,” Jacoby answered.

“Then what?”

“Then…,” Jacoby pauses briefly, stares at his glass, and lifts it to his lips. “I make the worst mistake of my life.” He swallows down the whiskey.

“How so?” asked Ecks.

Jacoby tells the young Arcana Knight the rest of his story. After regaining consciousness, Jacoby returned to Tulpaar Village. The Hammered Cauldron is the most popular pub in Tulpaar. Merchants and blacksmiths alike gather for good food and even better liquor. Some of the Huntsman and Huntresses have also made the trip from the neighboring Tulpex Village to eat and drink and be merry. Everyone’s merriment is soon interrupted when Jacoby bursts through the door, pleading for help. Fear and panic have driven him to run the entire way back to Tulpaar. He drops to his knees now that fatigue has caught up with him. A larger man – bald with a thick silver mustache – approaches Jacoby. He helps Jacoby over to the table he was sitting at and calls for the waitress to bring a pint of ale. When placed on the table, Jacoby takes up the ale and drains it in one swoop. The bald mustache man waits for Jacoby to calm down before asking what had happened. After another swig of ale, Jacoby tells his friend, Edgar Dean, about what happened at the abandoned chateau. Silence slowly sweeps over the patrons of the Hammered Cauldron. The waitresses, who were in the middle of carrying trays of food and drink, stopped to listen. Jacoby tells everyone about the restored chateau, the Lady in White, and his wife’s fate. With his story finished, he makes another plea for anyone to accompany him back to the chateau and save Jemma.

The pub is now deathly silent. Everyone, including his friend, stared at Jacoby taken aback by his tale. After a stretched-out moment, a voice breaks the silence, calling him daft. Another voice pipes up, questioning his sanity. Yet another person – a woman – mocks him, referring to herself as the Lady in White before dramatically throwing herself into the arms of a Hunter. The pub soon erupts with laughter. Jacoby watched in shock and disbelief at how easily everyone dismissed his claim and went back to enjoying their merriment as if nothing had occurred. Edgar Dean discreetly escorts Jacoby outside to the street. Jacoby pleaded with Edgar to believe him. Edgar tells him that he does. Truthfully, he is not sure whether to believe Jacoby. Everyone in Tulpaar and Tulpex knows that the old Dodgson chateau is forbidden and that the Lady in White is nothing more than a superstition. It is the urgency in his young friend’s voice that alerts him to the possibility that something terrible did happen. While he doesn’t believe what Jacoby said about the chateau or the Lady in White, Edgar offers to help him. He tells Jacoby that he will get the other men they work with and head to the chateau.

Edgar Dean and Jacoby had been friends for a while. Edgar knew Jacoby’s father, Jethro Myers when they started their “Iron Worx” business. When Jethro was among the few men who lost their lives in the accident at main forge ten years, Edgar looked out for Jacoby, taking him on as one his own. Jacoby, like his father, had a raw talent for iron work. He quickly excelled in the craft and soon stood in Jethro’s place as co-owner of Iron Worx. Edgar has grown fond of Jacoby, forming a friendship similar to what he had with Jethro. He is willing to help Jacoby whenever he needs it. Edgar Dean and the two men they work with – Tyler Mason and Steadman Arnold – followed Jacoby to the Dodgson chateau. Jacoby stood in shock. Nothing he sees is making any sense. He stood in silence, staring slack-jawed with wide eyes as he tries to process the happenings of the earlier evening to now. Where once stood a vibrant, newly restored Dodgson chateau is now a rotten husk of a building with a name plate clinging onto a single nail. Jacoby stumbles around the courtyard, quickly scanning the chateau in the hopes of seeing something – anything – to confirm his story. Snickering, Tyler Mason, and Steadman Arnold watch Jacoby scurry about like a mad man.

Jacoby mutters to himself. He knows what he saw had to be real. He has smelt the burning maple in the fireplace. He had touched the fresh cobblestone of the chateau. He had seen the Lady in White drain the life from his beloved Jemma. It had to be true. Did he dream it? Did he encounter the hallucinogenic Meridian Flower? No, he saw Jemma. He saw the Lady in White. He saw the stone creatures. Jacoby wrestled with himself, trying to make sense of what happened. Just then, Edgar Dean walked up to him and asks him if he is certain of what happened earlier in the evening. Jacoby insists what he said is true.

Steadman Arnold, the larger of the two men with red wavy hair, asks about the chateau, pointing out its dilapidated appearance.

Jacoby reiterates that the chateau was fully restored and furnished.

Then Tyler Mason, who is almost as lithe as Jacoby with a stockier build and short crop dark hair, says to Jacoby that he is daff.

Jacoby stomps toward Tyler and snaps back his objection.

Edgar Dean quickly defuses the situation before it escalates. He instructs Steadman and Tyler to search for clues. With a reluctant grumble, Steadman leaves followed by Tyler. Edgar and Jacoby check the west side of the Dodgson chateau. During their inspection, Edgar can’t help but point the chateau’s condition. No one has lived here for years. He does smell burnt applewood from a recent fire, but he takes a quick peek at the fireplace and sees no charred wood. Jacoby has no reason to lie to him. However, Edgar has to question what his friend experienced earlier this evening.

“Uh, Jake.”

“Yeah, Ed?” Jacoby replied, looking back over his shoulder at him.

“About what happened earlier,” Edgar started, rubbing the back of his neck. Jacoby has already been ridiculed by everyone at the Hammered Cauldron and by Steadman and Tyler just moments ago. The last thing he wants to do is fan the flames. But he cannot ignore what his eyes see. “What exactly happened earlier?” Edgar reluctantly asked.

Jacoby turns fully toward him. “What do you mean?”

Edgar sighs heavily. “There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just come right out with it,” he says. “Are you certain…about what happened?”

Jacoby looks at Edgar puzzled. Why would his friend be questioning him after claiming to believe him? “Ed, what’re you…? What’re you getting at? You said you believed me.”

“And I do,” Edgar replies calmly. “But Jake, you have to see it for yourself. There’s nothing here.”

“I knew it. You don’t believe me either,” Jacoby said disappointedly.

“That isn’t what I’m saying. I’m not denying that something terrible happened. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have barged into the pub the way you did,” Edgar assured him. “But I also can’t deny what my eyes see. And you see it too. This courtyard has seen neither sickle nor shear in years, lad. And the chateau is still the same as it always has been, waiting for nature to reclaim the land.”

“In that case, I can’t deny my eyes either. I know what I saw, Ed. And I’m not going back on it,” Jacoby said sternly.

“I’m not befuddling you, lad. I’m just wondering if it all happened a different way,” Edgar says sincerely. Jacoby is about to protest again but holds his tongue. Looking at the weather-beaten, rotting chateau and overgrown courtyard, he wonders if Edgar could be right. Could the incident involving his wife have happened differently?